50 Years of SIFF: The Pillow Book

The Pillow Book

France | 1996 | 126 min. | Peter Greenaway

Opens March 2, 2024

50 Years of SIFF

A young Japanese woman with a fetish for calligraphy embarks upon a passionate relationship with a British translator (Ewan McGregor), using his body as a canvas on which to send work to her publisher, in a lurid tale of lust, hatred, jealousy, and revenge. FOOLS* & BETH BARRETT CHOICE. 

Seattle International Film Festival 1997 selection - Golden Space Needle Audience Award Winner for Best Director.


Select showtime for pricing and tickets.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The Pillow Book is a visually stunning, erotic Peter Greenaway film, about a young woman who seeks sexual fulfillment through physical pleasure as well as through poetry, written in calligraphy on her body.”--Bic Wong, Fool Serious member

“When I heard that Peter Greenaway (whose films changed my life in college) had a new film, and that it starred Ewan McGregor, well. That was that. I happily sat for hours on end on the wooden seats in the balcony for the film and extended Q&A with Peter Greenaway, and was transported.”--Beth Barrett, SIFF Artistic Director

In The Pillow Book, British director Peter Greenaway has delivered (even by his own esoteric standards) a work of extraordinary beauty, subtly mixing up Asian iconographies to create an intimate and sensual, yet dense drama. The half Japanese, half Chinese Nagiko (Vivian Wu) grows up with a fetish for calligraphy as a result of her childhood when, on her birthday, her father would paint a greeting on her face and have extracts from the 10th century “Pillow Book” of Sei Shonagon, a list of precious and graceful things, read to her. Her fetish manifests itself in having her lovers write upon her body, but none seem to satisfy both her lovemaking and calligraphy desires. An encounter with a young British translator named Jerome (Ewan McGregor) turns the tables by having her write chapters of her novel on his body. But when it’s revealed that the publisher is Jerome’s homosexual lover and also has a dark connection to her father, Nagiko plots her revenge. Frames within frames, computer graphics, subtitles, projections, and superimpositions all vie for the eye in a sumptuous, seamless collage, making this lurid tale of lust, jealousy, hatred, and revenge one of Greenaway’s very best works.

*The Fool Serious group (or “Fools”) is a group of fanatical cinephiles that gather throughout the Festival. The name is a play on the “Full Series” Festival pass, which they all purchase year after year.

  • Director: Peter Greenaway
  • Principal Cast: Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor,Yoshi Oida, Ken Ogata
  • Country: France, UK/Netherlands/Luxembourg
  • Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 126 min.
  • Producer: Kees Kasander
  • Screenplay: Peter Greenaway
  • Cinematographers: Sacha Vierny
  • Editors: Peter Greenaway, Chris Wyatt
  • Music: Ron Korb
  • Filmography: The Falls (1980), The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), The Belly of an Architect (1987), Drowning by Numbers (1988), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Prospero's Books (1991), The Baby of Mâcon (1993), 8½ Women (1999), The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story (2003), The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea (2004), The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to the Finish (2004), Nightwatching , Goltzius and the Pelican Company (2012), Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
  • Language: English,Cantonese, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and French
  • US Distributor: Cinépix Film

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